Decorating the “classroom”


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Decorating the “classroom”

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I LOVE setting up my classroom for the new school year. I take great pride in making my classroom environment welcoming and comfortable. I’ve always felt that having an organized and decorated classroom helps the kids immediately know that you’re committed to them. However, with distance learning, my classroom is the corner of my bedroom. My husband has been working in the office next door since March. My kids have their distance learning set up downstairs, so that left our bedroom or the kids’ rooms. Though at first it seemed really, really strange to teach in the corner of my bedroom, I don’t even think about it anymore. The blank wall behind me though, it was really going to be a problem. I know most people have great success with Zoom backgrounds, but I have a really hard time sitting still, and I learned over the spring that I end up making my arms and head disappear because I fidget and get up and move around too much, so the virtual background just doesn’t work for me. At the very end of July, I went to my classroom for the first (and what would be the only time until November) when it was becoming clear that we might not re-open for in person instruction. When I went to my room to get the materials I needed to plan and digitize my lessons, I grabbed a few of the collage frames that hang in the front of my classroom. I ended up decorating my bedroom wall to emulate what the wall behind my desk at school looks like. It gave some normalcy to an abnormal start. In November, when it sounded like we would be re-opening, I took the pictures back to my classroom and got my room into shape. (That was a stressful day - two masks, a face shield, standing in a room I did not feel safe in and wondering how re-opening could be safe for my kids, and having a huge pit in my stomach knowing that I would not be there if we did re-open, as I had already turned in my paperwork to take a temporary leave if we re-opened). Then the county went into the Purple Tier, and re-opening was postponed. I was relieved, sad, frustrated, excited, a whole mix of contradictory emotions, because the situation was bleak but I was also able to keep teaching. Over Veteran’s Day, since my wall was now blank, I decorated my wall for the holidays. My students even sent me drawings of ornaments they make, sort of a glimmer of when we’re in person and have homeroom door decoration competitions. Winter break came and went and we remained in the Purple Tier, so I decided to redecorate my wall for January with snowflakes that my daughter and I made out of recycled materials. (A LOT of crafting has gone on these last 10 months!) This past weekend, I was startled to realize that this Monday would be the start of February. In a normal year, I make each kid a Valentine. It’s one of those things that is really dorky, but the kids actually love it. I leave a personalized one with a piece of candy on each of their seats. Many of them joke I’m their first or only Valentine. Another little bit of fun lost this year. But I like to stay positive, so I decorated my wall with hearts with their names. It may not be the personalized Valentine I usually make, but it adds some festive fun to our Zoom. I know my days of Distance Learning are coming to an end soon. The good news is our local case rates are declining, but I am anxious. My district is one of the only in the county to opt into the governor’s plan to re-open schools, lured by the promise of money and fearful of declining enrollment. Our neighboring districts have made statements that it is still unsafe and are holding out for teachers to be vaccinated. I am holding out for the same, and am dreading the repercussions that will come with taking a leave. As much as I’d love to cover the wall with shamrocks at the end of this month, I am predicting our schools will re-open by March. If I have my vaccination, I will be there for sure. However, the vaccinations are not rolling out well here, and I fear I will not have access before schools re-open. I think March is going to see me at home, without my students, staring at a blank wall, desperately trying to get a vaccine. But for now, I will find some happiness in the fact that I have already gotten dms and chats from my students joking with me that I am their first Valentine. At least some things can stay the same.

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This item was submitted on February 5, 2021 by Kathryn Jue using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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